A robust rental inventory management system helps a luxury children’s clothing rental company grow with confidence.
Emma Hostetter was a stay-at-home mom who put her career as a physician on pause to take care of her young daughter. After buying her daughter a beautiful dress for a birthday party, she didn’t know what to do with it after the event. Her husband suggested an idea - maybe she could rent the dress out for others to use. She started renting out dresses, and within a year she was generating $15k a month. However, she urgently needed a platform to manage orders and inventory as she grew.
I led the design of our inventory managment interface for The Borrowed Boutique team beginning in May of 2016. This included research and discovery of current rental and ecommerce platforms, developing a UX strategy and executing a fully designed prototype to identify opportunities for improvement.
I worked with our project manager, junior designer, development lead, and our sales team to map out Emma’s operational processes. We created a flowchart to determine key points in Emma's process that marked when goods were handled in the warehouse, shipped to and from customers, sent out for repair and ultimately back into inventory. This was done to inform our developers of the requirements needed to plug into Emma’s existing Shopify ecommerce site.
I defined the core viable aspects of the product with my project manager and partners. By defining job stories, we contextualized the process for Emma, her associates and her customers. We evaluated what needed to happen when inventory arrived, how to manage that inventory, and when it made sense to integrate SKUs and shipping. Scoping each endpoint of the process uncovered new challenges that needed to be addressed.
Emma was using a Facebook page as her website, where users would comment on pictures of dresses they wanted to rent. She ultimately wanted to rent items through an Ecommerce store, but there was one big problem - Ecommerce software is built to ship stuff out, not get stuff back.
I developed a design strategy to determine the minimum viable screens needed to complete one rental fulfillment. I determined that the main points of interaction would occur on the inventory and shipment screens. I also created a living document to make sure the vocabulary used throughout design and development were established, used, and modified as necessary to avoid confusion.
I designed for a web responsive platform that would be primarily used in their new flagship store. I determined what information was necessary to complete actions for inventory, tracking, shipment, issues and customer management.
After several iterative cycles, we determined that the shipment screen needed to allow for fulfillment, tracking, returns and an archive.
The inventory portion proved to be one of the more complex processes to capture as it involved both online and offline interactions. We knew that at minimum this portion of the application had to provide a quick view of goods, their status in terms of availability, sizing and color information.
We quickly realized that there needed to be a location for current issues to reside. Issues ran the gamut of garments being torn or soiled, items stuck in transit both to and from the customer, extensions made by the customer, and ultimately whether the issue and been resolved or not.
Tracking a garment required coordination between existing external shipping services as well as internal tracking within the warehouse.
Since the majority of Emma’s customers were captured via facebook and Shopify, a centralized customer catalog was needed.
We were able to create an inventory system that perfectly matches the company’s workflow. Once Sticksnleaves developed a blueprint for the application, the Borrowed Boutique team was confident the software would solve their current challenges.
At any moment, Emma and her team can see what items she has in stock, which items are with customers, and which items might be reaching the end of their rental life. This helps her predict which items to buy when, to meet customer demand.
Customers can select reservation dates directly through The Borrowed Boutique’s storefront. The calendar shows the availability for each dress in real time so the customer knows exactly what’s available to rent.